News

Liberals block 30% cut to hydro bills, support privatized hydro

Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals voted Tuesday against cutting hydro bills for Ontarians by 30 per cent, and in favour of the privatization of Hydro One. 

“Everyday families, businesses, municipalities and hospitals are hurting from the Wynne government’s sky-high hydro bills,” said Horwath. “But, once again, the Wynne Liberals are focused on Premier Wynne and the Liberal party – not what Ontario people need.”

The vote was on a motion, Addressing the Root Causes of High Hydro Costs, that would have reduced hydro bills for businesses and families by up to 30 per cent. The plan includes eliminating mandatory time-of-use pricing, ending unfair rural delivery charges, and fixing problems in the system like oversupply and exporting power to other jurisdictions at a loss. The motion would have adopted the NDP’s hydro plan – one it released weeks ago – and includes reversing the privatization of Hydro One. That move would pay for itself, and bring in an additional $7 billion in revenue to reinvest in Ontario.

"The cost of electricity has gone up over 300 per cent under the Liberal government, including 50 per cent just since Premier Wynne took office,” said Horwath. "Instead of taking a serious look at the NDP’s comprehensive and achievable plan, Wynne is musing about borrowing and sticking the next generation with as much as $40 billion in interest to buy some pre-election political relief for herself and her party. We’re all going to pay for that, one way or another.

"And she’s still planning to continue the disastrous sell-off of Hydro one. She’s still planning to charge time-of-use premiums that punish parents for cooking dinner at dinner time and seniors for staying home during the day. Not only does her approach fail to address the mess the Liberal and Conservative governments made of our hydro system – it drives us further in the wrong direction – including by selling off even more of Hydro One.”

Workers forced to strike for better wages as Wynne’s inaction continues:

During question period Tuesday, NDP labour critic Cindy Forster called out Premier Kathleen Wynne for failing to raise Ontario’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, as workers in Toronto campuses strike for better wages.

“Cafeteria staff at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus have been out on strike now for more than six weeks. They want fairness, better schedules, better benefits and wages they can actually live on,” Forster said.  “Similar workers at York University were able to win a raise recently bringing them to $15 dollars an hour. They achieved that with no help from their government.”    

Forster said that hard-working Ontarians have waited long enough for change, and that the Wynne government needs to take immediate action.

“What is this government prepared to do to transform the lives of these cafeteria workers – and all hardworking Ontarians – and when?”

Foster said the Wynne government knows that unstable, precarious work has grown almost twice as fast as stable jobs, making the need to raise the minimum wage more important than ever. 

“New Democrats believe that $15 dollars an hour should be the minimum Ontarians receive for the hard work they do, and they shouldn’t have to strike to get it,” Forster said.  “We believe people should be able to plan their lives with better schedules and better wages. They should be able to take time away without breaking the bank.”

NDP calls on Wynne to end hallway health care and solve hospital overcrowding crisis

During question period Tuesday, Ontario NDP health critic France Gélinas demanded that Premier Kathleen Wynne stop forcing patients in Ontario to be treated in hospital hallways, as hospital overcrowding takes its toll on Ottawa hospitals.  

“Hospitals are facing an overcrowding crisis that keeps getting worse,” Gélinas said. "I'm concerned about patients in pain or discomfort being told to wait even longer. I'm concerned about people being left in a hallway bed that doesn't offer the comfort they need." 

The Ontario NDP health critic cited an Ottawa Citizen report about  94-year-old Margaret Otto who was brought, by ambulance, to an overcrowded Ottawa hospital.

“Margaret had to lie on a stretcher in the busy Emergency Room for hours. It was noisy. She couldn’t rest. And as her daughter Patricia says: ‘It is pretty sad that a woman of her age and in her condition can’t get a room’,” Gelinas said. “When will the premier stop forcing seniors, like Margaret, to be treated in hallways – and do something to solve the overcrowding crisis inside our hospitals?”

Gélinas said overcrowding has forced the Queensway Carleton Hospital to cancel 36 surgeries in recent months, while patients across the province are waiting longer for care. In January, the Ontario Hospital Association wrote that emergency department wait times are the longest on record since Ontario started measuring wait times nine years ago.

“It’s not just people in Ottawa who are suffering from the overcrowding crisis created by this Liberal government,” Gélinas said.  “The premier’s record is one of overcrowded hospitals, seniors on stretchers, cancelled surgeries, and longer wait times for families across the province. 

“When will this premier stop squeezing our hospitals and put an end to hallway medicine in Ontario?”

Horwath motion calls for hydro savings and a plan that fixes Ontario’s electricity system

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has introduced an Opposition Day Motion calling on the legislature to adopt the only plan put forward by any party that will fix Ontario’s broken electricity system and provide immediate relief for everyone. 

The NDP plan will reduce hydro bills for businesses and families by up to 30 per cent, eliminate mandatory time-of-use pricing, end unfair rural delivery costs, and restore public ownership of Hydro One.

“The cost of electricity has gone up more than 300 per cent under the Liberals -- including 50 per cent just since Premier Wynne became premier -- but she has no plan to stop the price of power from rising,” said Horwath. “Once again, instead of looking out for the best interests of Ontarians, the premier is taking care of the political fortunes of herself and the Liberal party. Her phantom plan is nothing more than a borrowing approach that fails to fix the electricity system and it sticks Ontario families with a $40 billion bill. 

“And the Conservative leader has no plan whatsoever.”

In addition to cutting hydro bills by as much as 30 per cent, the NDP plan, to be debated today, includes returning Hydro One to public hands – a move that will provide Ontario with an additional $7 billion that can be invested in schools, hospitals and the public services  that people need.

“Instead of fixing the electricity system broken by her Liberal government and previous Conservative governments, Premier Wynne is determined to ignore Ontarians and to continue the disastrous sell-off of Hydro One,” said Horwath. “The premier has no intention of getting rid of time-of-use billing that hurts seniors on fixed incomes and punishes families for cooking meals at the supper hour.

“We need a solution for the broken system – not just a $40 billion band aid for Premier Wynne’s political problems.”

Horwath called on all members of the legislature to support her Opposition Day Motion and to commit to immediate electricity bill savings and a plan that fixes the root causes of Ontario’s broken hydro system.

DOWNLOAD AND SIGN THE PETITION (PDF)

Ontarians deserve a $15 minimum wage: Statement from Ontario NDP Labour Critic Cindy Forster

Cindy Forster, Ontario NDP Labour Critic and MPP for Welland, issued the following statement in response to the announcement made today by the Minister of Labour: 

“Ontarians deserve nothing less than a $15 minimum wage, because someone who goes to work 40 hours each week shouldn’t be struggling below the poverty line. Too many people are working two or more low wage, part-time jobs just to pay their hydro bills and to put food on the table. 

Premier Wynne doesn’t get that families can’t survive on the current minimum wage. Unstable employment is having‎ a devastating impact on women, racialized people and immigrants. Now is the time for a ‎$15 minimum wage for Ontario.”

Skyrocketing hydro costs leave Ontario public libraries in crisis

This morning during question period, NDP Economic Development, Employment, Research and Innovation Critic Catherine Fife outlined the dire position libraries across Ontario are facing as hydro rates continue to rise. 

“We know that our public libraries provide extraordinary value to their communities,” said Fife. “Whether it’s employment skills upgrading or the integration of new Ontarians, or whether it’s providing free space for seniors’ groups or the early development of literacy skills, our public libraries create community across this province.” 

Fife, the MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo, raised the example of libraries in her riding. 

“In Waterloo, our public library hydro bills have been rising, with no end in sight. In fact, I’ve heard first-hand over the last three years that the increase in their hydro bills have been staggering. In 2014-15, Waterloo Public Library’s electricity costs rose by 18 per cent; the following year, by 26 per cent,” said Fife. “Public libraries’ operating budgets are being squeezed and public service is being sacrificed.”

Fife criticized the government for failing to release details of their promised hydro cost reduction plan, and the continued under-funding of public Libraries. 

“Our public library budgets are being compromised because of your out-of-control hydro rates. Your government’s public library operating grants fund less than 5% of library operating budgets,” said Fife. “Rising electricity bills and chronic underfunding have created a crisis for libraries. Out of desperation, Toronto public libraries are now opening without staff. Imagine: libraries without librarians. Why is your government forcing libraries to choose between paying their bills or staffing their libraries?”

NDP MPP calls on premier to stop cuts to vulnerable children and families

Monique Taylor, MPP for Hamilton Mountain and the NDP critic for children and family Services, today called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to stop her Liberal government’s cuts and start strengthening Ontario’s social services that children and families depend on.

“Good health outcomes and success in education are determined, in large measure, by social conditions,” said Taylor.

Wynne government failing seniors in Windsor struggling with hydro bills: MPP Hatfield

During question period Thursday, Percy Hatfield, NDP MPP for Windsor-Tecumseh, demanded answers from the Wynne government for seniors in Windsor struggling to pay their hydro bills.

“I have a constituent.  She’s 67. Her husband is a stroke victim. She’s trying to save money. She got rid of her electric clothes dryer and switched to natural gas.  It only saved her 10 bucks a month. Her most recent hydro bill was for $130 of usage, but more than $100 in delivery charges,” Hatfield said.

MPP Sattler demands Wynne government stop blocking project to help mental health patients

During question period Thursday, Peggy Sattler, London West NDP MPP, demanded the Wynne government stop blocking a project to help thousands of mental health patients in London.

“London health providers and emergency service personnel have been asking for months for the minister of health to approve this project as a pilot, to allow it to go ahead. The minister told the media yesterday that the project is already underway, but in fact, it is being held up on his desk,” Sattler said.

Local NDP MPPs urge minister of education to end Niagara lockout

Today, Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates and Ontario NDP Labour Critic and Welland MPP Cindy Forster called for Premier Kathleen Wynne's education minister to put an immediate end to the Niagara Catholic District School board (NCDSB ) lockout so that thousands of affected school children and their families can get back to the classroom.

“Coming from significant experience at the bargaining table, resorting to a lockout will only have damaging impacts on the students and families caught in the middle of this dispute.  As adults and especially as elected representatives, we serve as role-models to the students. The Liberal minister needs to put an immediate stop to the lockout so our students and teachers can get back to the classroom,” said Gates.

Thousands of students have been affected by the lockout. Over 460 other school boards in the province have reached agreements and NCDSB is one of three that has yet to settle. 

“Let’s not forget that it’s the Liberal government and Premier Wynne’s short-changing education with a flawed funding formula that has been divisive and that has ultimately caused these disruptions. Teachers and students just want to go back to school,” said Forster.

Gates and Forster are calling on the education minister to put an immediate end to the lockout and call both parties back to the bargaining table.

Premier Wynne fails to stand up for Ontarians in federal budget

Ontario NDP Finance Critic John Vanthof issued the following statement:

“Ontarians expected Premier Wynne to stand up for their interests in this federal budget. Instead, just like the recent health accord, Premier Wynne has settled for far less support from Ottawa than what Ontario needs. 

Our province needs stronger funding commitments from the federal government when it comes to affordable housing, infrastructure and transit, more affordable pharmacare, and equitable access to clean drinking water and education for First Nations communities. Ontarians deserve better.”

Precarious work causing stress and sickness for Ontarians: MPP French

During question period today, Oshawa MPP Jennifer French called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to address the damaging effects of precarious work on hardworking Ontarians and release the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review.

“Ontarians are working two and three part-time and piecemeal jobs without knowing when they’ll be scheduled next,” said French. “Job prospects are getting worse, wages are down and the cost of living keeps going up, but the Liberals aren’t willing to alleviate this stress and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

MPP French’s question referenced a recent study commissioned by the Ontario Federation of Labour which found that precarious work environments cause increased stress and sickness for workers in Ontario.

“Hard-working Ontarians are stressed and they are becoming sick over unpredictable work schedules,” said French. “They deserve wages they can count on. They deserve hours that they can rely on, and they deserve schedules they can plan around.” 

Past statements by the government claimed that the report would be released in the spring of 2017.

“Does the Premier have the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review? And if she does, what is she waiting for?”

Premier Wynne allowing privatization of health care through rise of for-profit clinics and services

France Gélinas, NDP health critic, continued Wednesday to press Premier Kathleen Wynne about her choice to allow the growth of private for-profit health clinics and services, while she continues deep cuts to public health care in the province.

“People shouldn’t have to pay up, or wait longer for the health care they need. But that’s exactly what’s happening under this premier,” Gélinas said.  “Companies are charging people to jump to the front of the line.  They're doing it unchecked, on the premier's watch.”

Wynne is allowing people to be charged – and allowing wait times for everyone else to get longer – as private, for-profit health companies are flourishing following Wynne’s deep cuts to Ontario’s public health care system. 

“For-profit companies like Maple are charging people for services like diagnosis and writing prescriptions,” Gélinas said.  “Does the premier believe it's ok for companies to charge Ontarians for seeing a doctor or getting a prescription? 

“If your child is sick, you should not have to reach for your credit card to buy answers.” 

Gélinas said that companies are charging people to see a doctor and to get a diagnosis, asking them to rack up credit card bills. Maple says it charges fees for services like doctor's visits and getting a prescription written because those services are “not covered by OHIP.” 

“Under the Wynne government, parents of a sick child are basically given the choice between paying up, or waiting longer.  And they have to watch while those who pay up, leapfrog ahead of them onto the surgery list,” Gélinas said.

“So when did the Premier decide that people have to choose between paying up – or waiting longer – to get their family the care they need?”

Hospitals’ hydro bills skyrocketing, Liberals admit almost no relief coming

As the NDP revealed documents showing skyrocketing hydro bills in Ontario hospitals, the Liberal government was forced to admit that hospitals will see almost no relief under Premier Kathleen Wynne’s $40-billion borrowing approach.

“Health care is at a tipping point in Ontario," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. "There have already been frontline workers laid off at many hospitals, and with skyrocketing hydro bills, hospitals are being squeezed tighter. Now, Wynne’s government has admitted that hospitals will see almost no relief from skyrocketing hydro costs under the premier’s scheme.”

According to documents the NDP obtained via access to information laws:

  • Toronto’s University Health Network has seen a $6 million cost hike to its hydro bills, or 39 per cent, over six years
  • Hamilton’s St. Joseph’s Healthcare has seen hydro costs increase by $4.16 million, or 105 per cent, in just six years
  • London Health Sciences Centre has seen hydro costs increase by nearly $2 million, or 29 per cent, even though their consumption dropped over the past six years
  • Toronto’s Sinai Health System is paying $1.45 million more, a 48 per cent increase in five years
  • Toronto East Michael Garron Hospital has seen a $1.3 million hike on its hydro bills, or 67 per cent, in six years
  • Windsor Regional Hospital’s Met Campus has seen a $880,000 hydro bill increase, or 49 per cent, in five years

Although no plan by the Wynne government has been made public, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault was forced to admit in Question Period on Tuesday that hospitals will only “see a modest reduction between 2 per cent and 4 per cent.”

“Health care workers are doing the best they can, but they're being asked to do more with less by Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government," said Horwath.  “Wait times are already too long. Staff are already run off their feet. These hydro bills are part of the problem, pushing hospitals to the breaking point. The Liberal approach will do nothing to help our hospitals.”

Horwath has released an NDP plan to cut hydro bills by as much as 30 per cent for all hydro customers, which includes returning Hydro One to public hands – a move that will return an additional $7 billion to the province which can be invested in Ontario services like hospitals. The NDP plan will also offer immediate relief with actions like eliminating time-of-use billing.

The Conservative party has not released a position or plan, but previously supported the selloff of Hydro One.

NDP: Wait for long-term care beds leaving families in crisis

NDP Home and Long-Term Care Critic Teresa Armstrong says extended wait times for long-term care beds are leaving Ontario families in crisis, scrambling to find care for loved ones, often at personal expense.

“Last week, I had a town hall meeting on long-term care in my riding. One of my constituents told me she was forced to take her father out of the hospital, and he has been living in a hospital bed in her living room,” said Armstrong this morning during question period. “She has missed so much work that she isn’t sure she has a job to go back to, and she is currently unable to pay her mortgage and her hydro bills because her father needs daily care.”

Far from an isolated case, Armstrong, the MPP for London-Fanshawe, stressed that the current crisis is the result of years of inaction by the Liberal government, who failed to adequately address rising need for long-term care options.

“The growing demand for long-term-care beds has not just come up out of the blue. Experts have warned this government for more than 10 years. Now, there are 26,500 seniors and their families caught up in cycles of stress, poverty and loss of dignity. The same experts have also told you that the wait-list will double in six years to 50,000 people,” said Armstrong, calling on the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care to take action.

“Minister, you have failed my constituents, and I want to know exactly what you are doing for the 26,500 seniors and their families who are languishing on waiting lists, waiting for a long-term-care bed,” said Armstrong. “Will you commit to ensuring that every senior has access to a long-term care bed when they need it?”

 

Horwath presses Wynne to finally protect all renters in Ontario

Today during question period, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to stop allowing massive, unfair rent hikes. 

An NDP bill tabled today will close the loophole that has thousands of renters at risk. 

The Rent Protection for All Tenants Act was introduced by Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns Monday, and will close the loophole that allows landlords in buildings built later than 1991 to hike rents as much as they want, whenever they want.

“We hear from families that say these increases are chasing them from their homes – the place they’re raising their kids.  Some people are seeing rent increases of hundreds of dollars or even $1,000 a month,” said Horwath.  “That’s not fair, it doesn’t have to be this way and Wynne Liberals could have done something about this years ago.”

Horwath said if Premier Wynne has been listening to Ontarians, she should support the bill.

“Premier Wynne has had years to correct this loophole that’s leaving millions of Ontarians unprotected,” said Horwath. “Meanwhile, tenants either face massive rent hikes, or the fear that they're next.”

The NDP bill will amend the Residential Tenancies Act to include all renters in a rule that caps rent increases to the annual rent increase guidelines – about 1.5 per cent this year. Currently, only tenants of buildings constructed before 1991 have that protection.

NDP hydro plan is on the table, Krmpotich wants to see Romano's Conservative plan

Last week, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and NDP Sault Ste. Marie candidate City Councillor Joe Krmpotich, revealed that hydro bills at the Sault Area Hospital have jumped nearly $1 million in recent years. With Horwath questioning the premier on that issue this morning, Krmpotich wants to know what Ross Romano would do about soaring hydro bills.

"Last week Andrea was here, listening to the people of this community, and today she has taken those concerns back to Queen's Park to fight for us," said Krmpotich. "That's in pretty stark contrast to Mr. Romano, whose reaction when he heard that soaring hydro rates are threatening frontline care at the Sault Area Hospital was to issue a press release arguing that privatization of our system hydro wasn't the problem."

Romano, a cut-and-privatize Conservative, tied himself in knots, to blame anything but privatization for skyrocketing hydro prices. But Romano has refused to provide Sault voters with any kind of a vision or plan to make hydro more affordable.

"My message for Mr. Romano is this," said Krmpotich. "The NDP has released our extensive plan to lower all hydro bills by about 30 per cent. Where's your plan?" 

Horwath's plan to cut hydro bills by about 30 per cent includes returning Hydro One to public hands – a move that will provide Ontario with an additional $7 billion that can be invested in Ontario services like hospitals. It also included immediate cost-cutting measures like removing time-of-use billing.

The NDP's public plan is in stark contrast to the Wynne government's phantom plan – a borrowing scheme that will force people to pay $40 billion more in interest to bankers. Since the Wynne government hasn't released their plan yet, it's not clear when or how Ontarians will be billed for that $40 billion. 

"Our community deserves a healthy debate about how to fix the sky-high hydro bills families and our local businesses are facing," said Krmpotich. "Now let's hear Mr. Romano's plan."

The entire NDP plan is online at ontariondp.ca/hydroplan.

 

NDP demands to know the price tag of Wynne’s self-serving hydro ads

The NDP is filing requests under Freedom of Information laws to find out just how much public money Premier Kathleen Wynne is spending on advertisements in defense of sky-high hydro bills and the multi-billion-dollar borrowing scheme she still hasn’t released.

“Not one dime has come off people’s sky-rocketing hydro bills and Wynne hasn’t tabled legislation, or even a credible plan to save us money. Yet, she’s spending more of people’s hard-earned dollars on ads claiming the problem is solved,” said Peter Tabuns, Ontario NDP Energy Critic.